By January, Metro vending machines will no longer issue paper farecards
For the first time, a customer who pays for their Metro trip at King Street, Huntington, or Franconia-Springfield stations will receive a SmarTrip® card—not a paper fare card—from the 25 upgraded vending machines that went into service this week.
Metro has begun upgrading more than 450 existing fare vending machines to dispense SmarTrip cards rather than paper farecards. The rollout began at Virginia stations along the Blue and Yellow lines earlier this week and, by Friday, all stations from Crystal City to Huntington and Franconia-Springfield will be completed.
Metro plans to discontinue all sales of paper farecards, including bulk sales, when the last machine on the system is upgraded by January. (Paper farecard sales will end at individual Metrorail stations as the machines are upgraded.)
Customers will be able to use any remaining paper farecards to enter and exit the rail system until early March. After that, riders holding paper farecards will still be able to transfer the value from paper to SmarTrip at any rail station or Metro sales office through June 2016.
“SmarTrip is faster, safer, more reliable and less costly than paper fare media,” said Jim Bongiorno, Treasury Technical Manager for Metro. “And eventually, when SmarTrip completely replaces paper farecards, customers will notice the benefits in the form of faster entries and exits at the faregates, and improved reliability with more faregates in service. Meanwhile, Metro expects lower expenses through reduced maintenance costs and the improved efficiency that comes from having a single way to pay.”
SmarTrip technology uses no moving parts, a stark contrast from the highly mechanical system of belts, pulleys, readers and ink stamps that are involved with processing paper farecards. Similar to the issues found in copy machines, paper farecards are prone to getting jammed, which can take a faregate out of service.
Customers receiving a new SmarTrip card at an upgraded vending machine will be charged $2 for the card – the same amount paid in surcharges by riders taking a roundtrip with a paper farecard.
SmarTrip is faster, safer and more convenient than using a paper farecard in several ways:
- Lower cost. On Metrorail, each trip taken with a SmarTrip card costs $1 less than those taken with a paper farecard. A new SmarTrip card ($2) pays for itself after only one roundtrip, versus using a paper farecard.
- More secure. SmarTrip cards can be registered online. If the card is lost or stolen, the unused value can be transferred to a new card. Paper farecards do not offer the same protections.
- More durable. Moisture or demagnetization can easily destroy a paper farecard, resulting in a loss of value. SmarTrip cards don’t have these issues.
- More reliable. SmarTrip uses no moving parts, unlike the highly mechanical and maintenance-prone equipment needed to process paper farecards.
- Transfer benefits. SmarTrip is also the only way to take advantage of cost-saving transfer options between Metrobus and Metrorail.
- Set it and forget it. Metro’s newest feature, called Auto Reload, gives SmarTrip users the convenience of having value automatically loaded to their card anytime their balance drops below $10.
Today, more than 90 percent of all Metrorail riders use a SmarTrip card to pay for their trip.
(Photo via Mr Tin DC, on Flickr)